The state’s care of children outside their families changed radically during the twentieth century and continues to develop. In the previous century, apart from some boarding-out initiatives, organized by philanthropic individuals within the Poor Law provisions (George, 1970, ch. 1), little attention was paid to the welfare of the orphaned or abandoned child. After years of failed campaigns, in response to the deaths of numerous children looked after for reward by so-called ‘baby farmers’, the first law regulating the care of children, the Infant Life Protection Act 1872, reached the statute book. Several statutory provisions followed, but none proved effective in terms of improving the lot of the children involved, least of all, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1889, the transfer to the Poor Law guardians of parental responsibility for children removed from their parents on the grounds of mistreatment or neglect (Hendrick, 1994, ch. 2).
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